If you're a recording engineer, you are no stranger to Al Schmitt and his contributions as one of the finest engineers that lived. Last month he left us at the age of 91 - always working to nearly the day he died.
Sparked by a post by George Peterson about his Tascam tape recorder, I was thinking about my 1885 Steinway B that gets daily use. Then I looked around at the cast iron pans I use daily that belonged to my grandmother (making them probably 100 years old). The Wusthof knives I bought when I was a teenager were the first purchase I made when I moved out of my parents house for college.
Anyone that met or heard Sonny Simmons has a story to tell. Some stories seem not believable, but with Sonny anything could happen and often did. I was lucky enough to have a few stories to tell and experience life with a jazz musician who stood beside John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy and many other greats.
Every now and then we stop in our tracks and say, "how long has this been going on?" Well, it happen that 2022 is going to be a big year for anniversaries and celebrations, so we thought we'd start now.
A few weeks ago Jason Weissman told me about his adventures in podcasting and being an audiophile. He asked about an interview with me.. but it's really a conversation between two people who love music, live performance and a tribute to how many terrific musicians are making music.
No, not the pandemic... a siege on the Capitol Building incited by the sitting President of the United States. Wow. if in any way you agreed with what happened at the Capital Building this week, please stop reading now and go to another website. But, if you're like most people in the USA and the World who were horrified at what was going on, you might need healing and unity as so many of us do.
If 2020 was a fiction novel, no one would have believed it possible to have this kind of year. Pandemic aside, we had the worst fire year ever, economic depression, riots, and challenges to our democratic elections. Good-bye 2020! And Good Riddance!
The holidays seem to bring on the desire to catch up with old friends. This year, more than most. Maybe because we've all been asked to stay home with covid on our heels. So, this weekend I decided to call my oldest friends in the world... those that knew me before I was a music producer or recording engineer. Those friends who knew me as a musician.
Blue Coast Records is a label. What does that mean? It means Blue Coast Records owns the masters and creates a brand around the kind of music we choose to record. That music has been guided by my personal taste in what I enjoy hearing. Sometimes the artists overlook their own best feature... the ability to perform fantastically live whether in concert or in the studio. Blue Coast Records chooses to capture those intimate moments.
2020 has been a monumentally strange year for almost everyone. Redefining who we are and what we do, locked in with ourselves and our creativity, and finding great pleasure in small steps with people who appreciate what one does, hasn't always been easy. But somehow, as much dread as there is in having the 'perfect' Thanksgiving holiday, the days have been a welcome relief. Compounded with 2020's challenges, this was an especially unusual h
Introductions on email are always interesting.. you never know where they're going to go. I'll do a little research and more often than not, after 40 years in the music business, you find a common thread. After that, I'll write a brief history of then to now with that thread of commonality.
Tony Furtado and I have been working together since the early 90's when he asked me to produce an album for Rounder Records. It was the beginning of a long and fruitful musical relationship. Today Tony posted in Facebook about a particular memory of recording a song that I had forgotten about.... Boat's Up The River. Hearing the story and song again brought me right back to the day and experience as Tony told it....
Many of you aren't aware that before I started Blue Coast Records, I had a thriving commercial recording studio business. We opened the doors to OTR Studio back in 1982 and for 20 years had the opportunity to record then emerging artists who would later become key figures in today's music. Yes, I used to record large ensembles with the musicians isolated in their rooms. Yes, I recorded to tape. Yes, some of the music I forgot and some of it is fantastic. Here's a playlist of some of those recordings.
David Solomon made us all feel very comfortable talking about how and why we record music for Blue Coast Records. We took a look back at my recording career and recording techniques for high resolution audio, but then brought in Blue Coast Artists to liven up the conversation. Eamonn Flynn come in first, followed by Fiona Joy Hawkins and Jenna Mammina. We were having so much fun talking bout fond memories in the studio that four of us conti
Hi all, David Solomon has been a very good friend and supporter through many years of HD audio. Now, he's a high end audio champion working for Qobuz, the favorite HD streaming company of many audiophiles.
I'm excited to announce two livestream interviews I'll be doing this week. The focus of discussion will be on recording, mixing and mastering. It should be fun to interact with the hosts and take questions.
My last few "Corners" have gotten much response so I thought I'd fill in the blanks for everyone. First, I wanted to remind you that DSD-Guide is our information website. If you're signed up at bluecoastmusic.com recently, you may not be receiving DSD-Guide. We send out about 2x a month with information on sound, tips on recording, DSD, comparative listening tests, etc. You can sign up here, if you're not already receiving it.
One of the reasons I started Blue Coast Records was to capture the sound of the musicians as they played together learning new songs in the studio. There was a freshness and lightness that was often lost when the 'record' button went on. It was a luxury I got to experience as a recording engineer and producer that I felt was worthy of sharing with the world.
It's sad when you hear of someone's passing. And especially touching when you are notified by a newsletter that features a photo of that person -- while you were with them 40 years ago. It stuns you on the passing of time. Wasn't that just yesterday?
Remember when you'd buy a CD or vinyl? You'd pour over the information and read all the panels or look at the booklet inside and out. Now, you buy a download or stream a song and where do you get that same information? Do you have to research at the artist website? Find it on the streaming service? Is the information you music manager giving you correct? Where does that information come from?
As we're nearly the 6 month point of living in the midst of a pandemic, I thought I'd check in with everyone and see how you're doing. Truthfully, the smoke surrounding the San Francisco area is harder to deal with than COVID. That was true lockdown.
There's no way around the fact that how we listen to live concerts has changed for ever. The largest concert promoters are turning to livestreaming and rumor has it that Spotify may also be headed that way.
Sometimes I forget to explain what the difference is between a STORE and a RECORD LABEL. Even my crew can be confused so we have this daily mantra... "Blue Coast Music is a STORE. Blue Coast Records is a LABEL." So, what's the difference?
Earlier this year, we made DSD-Guide.com it's own destination for information. There you can find interesting, informative or amusing article about DSD and other HD audio. If the article is interesting we'll post a link or publish an article.
We first met Garett by chance singing at a friend's birthday party in Portland. At the time, Jean Claude Reynaud and myself were working on a new recording technique which later became Extended Sound Environment or E.S.E.
When the pandemic lockdown was announced, John R Burr and Mads Tolling were recording with us at OTR Studios. It was March 16, 2020 and we were told that the next day, we would all be confined to our homes. No one knew what that meant on that day. It was an eerie feeling that the possibility existed we may never finish this recording.
Those of us who have wandered around the audiophile forums know the battles between formats (can anyone hear the difference?) and expensive cables (can anyone hear the difference?). Yes, we can hear the difference and we do blindfold tests often.
Change is never easy. The last few years, music and entertainment had gone through enormous change. People binge watching on subscription based internet websites, streaming music services demolishing the income of those in the music industry, the rise of podcasts personalities and now, living in a time when the world is locked down in a pandemic what comes next?
Rick Clark is a phenomenal writer and journalist which are only a part of what he does in life. I had the good fortune to be interviewed by Rick many times for Mix Magazine. When it came time to introduce the world to our new adventure in sound, we invited Rick with several others to attend our sessions which became the discover of Extended Sound Environment and later Blue Coast Records.
Thank you, Steven Rochlin, for pushing me to do this interview. It was fun to recall the reasons why we started a commercial recording studio in the first place. Here's a link to pictures and the article.
Tuesday... our first session. Solo guitar with with an old friend. Musicians want to get back to recording. More to the point, musicians want interaction, ideas and sparks of inspiration they get from producers and engineers. Being in the studio is more than just capturing a sound. It's about creating an experience.
We've got a plan to handle it. We'll see how it works out.
Off to weekend hang with my father, William A Marenco and my brother, Bill Marenco to celebrate dad's 91st birthday. He insisted on no fanfare, no special dinner, no gifts, no parties. Still, I'm bringing him a few tomato plants and tomatoes, like it or not.
Jenna Mammina is an amazing singer, performer, improviser and now podcast personality. Since the lockdown, she's logged more than 250 livestreaming podcasts on FB. To know Jenna is to marvel that she's figured out how to do an incredibly low-fi show that makes a very fun podcast. She is as clever in her repartee as she is in her ability to wow a live audience.
Most long time fans of Blue Coast Records are aware of the painstaking efforts we take to record to DSD to achieve the quality of sound we want to reach. What you may not know is how we setup to get the passionate performances we bring to your home. It can only be achieved with the artists playing live in the same room.
I had a music lover ask about us rolling him a copy of a 1/2" master tape. Seems simple yes? But really.... No, it's not that simple. I'll explain more in an upcoming issue at DSD-Guide but for now, here's a simple story of mastering.
I love baseball. I love listening to baseball on the radio when I'm gardening. I love watching baseball at night as I'm headed off to sleep. I heard a saying the other day, "Sports is the reward of a functioning society" which has haunted me ever since. How is any sports team going to play during the pandemic?
Having a commercial recording studio puts me in a unique position to get to know musicians I wouldn't normally meet. Over the 30 plus years of having a studio I've worked with thousands of musicians and on more than 500 albums. Every now and then, I get the idea that putting a few together who have never met is a good idea.
Let's start with the last question... What is the relationship of MQD to MQA? Nothing.. no relationship. We came up with Master Quality Disc (MQD) at Blue Coast many years before MQA debuted. You can google MQA for details. I'll explain MQD discs here and now...
Dino (aka J.A. Deane) has written a exhaustively thorough blog post reviewing livestream gear for musicians. The equipment cost is less than $500 (most of which is the camera). I thought some of you more technically savvy would find this interesting.
Well, after all the trials and tribulations I've had with the Zoom Room set up at the studio, it all seems to be working.. at least good enough. The Beecaster mic is wonderful and sits on the desk, always on, I don't have to think about it. The camera is a pain, but workable. Yesterday, we had a nearly full crew meeting with all in our first Zoom meeting.
Last night I was going through youtube and this Joni Mitchell video came up. What a wonderful surprise. I think it was from American Masters. It's a pretty good biography of her life from young girl to current days in chronological order. Lot of great information I never really knew.
I'm having a 'brain dead' Saturday. We have a lot going on during the week at the studio with podcasts, setting up immersive sound and training the new assistants. To top it off, Patrick and I were rummaging through audio files from 2009 -- oooooh the bad years. We didn't quite have the systems in place we do now for metadata. It was rough going but we mixed some new music that should be out in a few weeks.
I didn't get the job. I didn't tell many people that I was offered the position. A very prestigious university with an incredible music department had asked me to apply for the Program Director of Music Business. I was honored and flabbergasted all at the same time. They also had an amazing music wellness division that I was excited to exchange ideas with.
The lockdown gave me a chance to move into my home. Some of you know I've been living in the same house for nearly 40 years so you might think it's odd that I would say that but it's true. The house, like my career, has taken on different directions, purposes and changes as it grows older. It's a little like moving into a new home... and just as much a pain to go through all that stuff in boxes. But it's time.
Some people go through life thinking that routines and rituals are a bad thing. I might have been one of those people until I realized that I miss routines and rituals. There is a peace and calm around doing the same things again and again with better results and happier days. Even a small ritual of how you make your coffee or where you get it from can be upsetting if you have to suddenly change.
Many of you know who Joe Rogan is.... some don't. Briefly, he was a comedian turned podcast star. Last month, his podcast series was licensed to Spotify for $100 million. Wow.. Spotify has never offered that amount to a musical artist. I'm not sure any late night talk show host has received that amount.. would be interesting to find out.
Once a year or so I try to make a dent cleaning out one of those hidden places where things have been hiding for years. During the pandemic, I made an effort to do it once a week. You find all kinds of memories there.
Both my father and brother are retired firemen. I chose a life in the music business. I don't talk about it much with them. My lifestyle doesn't make much sense to them. If you're reading this now, you probably know more about me than my family does. :) That's okay. I love them anyway. But we do share a couple of things in common... watching the San Francisco Giants play baseball and growing tomatoes.
We honored Black Out Tuesday by not sending a newsletter. We made our message known the following day. Usually I avoid discussing 'issues' even though in my younger years I was an activist. What was fascinating to me was how much people can read into words without them being said.
I'll leave it at that. I'm happy to say that the marches are peaceful and people are coming together in ways we haven't seen before.
Could times get much crazier? A pandemic has closed us off from human touch for 3 months and more than 100,000 people have died in the USA. A police station is burning down and protestors react around the country to inexcusable behavior. A reporter is arrested for doing his job in a crisis.
John R Burr contacted us yesterday. He asked how we were doing and then said, "Wouldn't it be fantastic if we were the first ones to be in the studio since we were the last ones to record before the lockdown?" We think it's a terrific idea!
We've been in lockdown since March 14. The last recording session was with John R Burr and Mads Tolling (yet to be released). It's hard to imagine we haven't recorded anyone in two months. So what are we doing?
When I first saw Billy Childs perform he was playing with trumpeter Freddie Hubbard's group. It was the Keystone Corner where jazz artists come to play Tuesday through Sunday. I was a budding jazz pianist back then and Billy's playing captivated me like few others. He was listening to the others play, reacting to their solos that gave meaning to the song..
Last Sunday, May 17 on Facebook, Jenna and I partied on for 90 minutes live for her video stream while she and I chatted via cell phones and Facetime. She had tequila and I had peach vodka. Need to know more? Read on!
I've been a recording and mixing engineer since 1982. When I started out, there were no schools for audio recording or mixing. I went on instincts from being a musician since I was 4 years old. I find the best recording engineers are musicians.
My friends, for a week I've tried everything to solve the issues of my Zoom meeting cutting out my audio. Now, after speeded up internet, USB mic, upgraded computer and video and an Ethernet cable, I've come to the conclusion that if I talk "lower" (like a man) there's no problem... except I sound very strange. :)
After a number of really bad zoom meetings where the audio and video stuttered so badly I had to use my iPhone with Zoom... we decided to make upgrades. Well, the ethernet adapter bypassing the wifi didn't work... next....
The $100 video camera for livestreaming will be tested today. On Tuesday we'll get a new router for the wifi and I'm one click away from ordering a new laptop.
Oh no! It's Friday. Patrick doesn't come in today. The local Starbucks is closed for the pandemic. The Half Moon Bay coffeeshop is a 20 minute drive that I would normally take, but the police are issuing fines for people driving to the ocean. Hmmmmm.
Most of us are locked up inside our homes. Many of us trying to work from home creating a whole new wave of online classes, webinars, zoom/skype or whatever meetings. Were you caught off guard as I was?
The pandemic has its drawbacks but one of the positive things it brings is better air, dolphins returning to the Venice canals and birds singing gleefully around the world. It's brought me a new sense of sound in the outdoors. How about you?
The pandemic has change how we live life. Not for just a few but for the entire world. It's hard to imagine how the world can come to a stop. Work stops, meeting friends doesn't exist, your favorite restaurant isn't open to sit for a meal, we're scrambling for toilet paper and unbleached white flour. How has life changed for you? We'd love to hear from you.
We're stepping it up. What does that mean? It means we're going to be much more proactive during these lockdown times by sending out more newsletters with great information, focused genres, more artist and production information
In order for you to get to know them better, we're going to be asking all our musicians Five Questions over the next few months and post the answers on their artist page. We hope you enjoy the answers as much as we have!
When we sometimes feel most alone, it can be overwhelming to think... everyone in the world is experiencing the same thing. This is a 'hive mind' on a global scale. It's hard to fathom. Billboard has compiled a list of our great musicians who have passed on due to Corona Virus.
04 01 2020 It was announced yesterday that we shall be asked to Shelter in Place for another 30 days -- until May 3, 2020. I live in the Silicon Valley. For the first time in many years, the skies are blue and the birds are singing. In fact, a lot of my friends from all over the country have told me they've notice an increase in birds chirping.
03 30 2020 Today was announced another 30 days of Shelter in Place. Do you use Facebook? I know... it's a pain. But in these days of shelter, I'm trying to be supportive of the musicians doing livestreams to keep in touch with their audiences. Most fun are when the musicians AREN'T giving a performance... like Jenna Mammina.
The world has changed and will never be the same. With the Corona Virus affecting every person on the planet, our health and way of life, I decided it might be interesting to start a journal of this journey and invite all my friends to come along.
How about this idea... Let's get to know each other.